Rounding out the top-four is longtime Blues defenseman Barret Jackman. Jackman defines what the steady and reliable defenseman should be as he has not strayed away too far from his level of play in 12 seasons. Goaltending The Blues decided to let Ryan Miller go at the conclusion of the season after acquiring him from the Buffalo Sabres during the year. With that decision, the Blues return to a competition between incumbent Brian Elliot and Jake Allen. In limited time last season, Elliot impressed with a goals-against average of 1.96 and a save percentage of .922. Since 2011, he has had a 1.86 goals-against average and .927 save percentage over that time. The issue is that he hasn’t had to carry the load over the last few seasons as he was splitting time with Jaroslav Halak, now with the New York Islanders. Jake Allen did not play for the big club in St. Louis last year, but impressed enough in his debut during the strike shortened-season of 2012-13 to be invited to compete for the starting job. He managed to play in 15 games that season and came away with a 2.46 goals-against average an underwhelming .905 save percentage. He will need to show more improvement to take playing time away from Elliot in net. Power Play The St. Louis Blues had one of the more impressive power-play units in the league in 2013-14 season. The Blues converted on nearly 20 percent (19.8) of their chances on the man-advantage which placed them eighth in the league. That number was much better earlier in the year and includes a stretch in April that saw the team score on only four of 49 opportunities. The addition of Paul Stastny should further boost the power-play unit in the upcoming season as he scored 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists). An off-ice addition will also look to provide some help to the unit. Kirk Paul Stastny Scott Rovak/NHL/Getty Images Mueller was brought in as an assistant in the off-season and will help run the power-play. (58) Penalty Kill The Blues were one of the stingiest teams in the NHL last season as they allowed only 188 goals for the season. It is no surprise that their stingy nature translated well to the penalty kill. The team finished second in the entire league last year in the penalty kill as they killed off an astounding 85.7 percent of opportunities against them. Defensive-minded forwards like David Backes and Steve Ott, and top-tier defensemen like Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester, they have led the charge while on the kill. If there is one area where the team can improve in this area would be to show the ability to score while shorthanded. The team scored six times while down a man last season, good for 16th in the league last season. Three Questions 1. Can Elliot carry the load for a full season? The hope is that he can. Over shorter outings, he has shown the ability to be an elite goaltender. His time to shine is now and with a defensive-minded team in front of him, he has a great safety net. 2. Will the Blues regular season success translate to playoff success? The Blues are hoping that with the experience of last season’s disappointment that the team will be hungry enough to win in the playoffs. The regular season is not an issue; it’s the spotlight and grind of the playoffs where this team must prove itself. 3. Will Paul Stastny live up to top-line center billing? Stastny is a bona fide top-line center. Living up to his contract is another issue entirely as he needs to develop chemistry and cohesion with his new teammates. Once that gets figured out, his talent will shine through. Prediction The question is not whether the Blues will make the playoffs or not, but instead the question is how far will they go? They have the talent to make a run at the Stanley Cup, now’s the time for the team to carry their success into the playoffs.
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